Many of us associate the terms self discipline with images ranging from a grocery list to managing a giant construction project to memories of Mom and Dad trying to get us to conform to the norms of society. But what is self discipline really? And how does it relate to success? Why do so many of us perceive self discipline as something to be avoided, as if it was some kind of threat? A threat to what? Is there a part of us that suspects something that another part of us doesn't want to know about?
Aside from the whole multiple personality disorder aspect of these questions, if you go out on the street and ask people at random what they think self discipline is you are likely to get a stunning array of answers that reflect a broad range of perceptions of this concept. I believe that part of the reason why we respond to these terms in negative ways is that back when we were young and society was trying to get us to go along with its program, they used the concept of self discipline to disguise the real process that was going on, which was more about social, economic and political indoctrination. After all, the system has to have drones.
Cynical perspectives aside, there is something of genuine value here and to discover it we need to take a closer look at just what self discipline might actually be. One of the definitions of discipline in the dictionary is 'training that develops self control'. Training uses the power of conditioning to achieve its objectives, but what are we trying to achieve self control over? Our physical condition? Our quality of life? Our personality? Actually, there is only one place where self control occurs, in the mind. This is true because all things have their beginning as thoughts produced by either our conscious, unconscious or subconscious mind.
So when we talk about self discipline, that self is our mind and the discipline is over the activity of our mind. I realize that self discipline of any kind is not exactly on everyone's 'gee I can't wait to do it' list and self discipline involving the mind is the last place we want to go rummaging around. Which in itself is strange in that it implies that there is something to fear in such an undertaking. Does the idea that we need to be afraid of our own mind sound a little sideways to you? The truth is, that this may be difficult but it is not impossible and we don't have to dig up traumatic experiences in order to develop the level of mental self control necessary to insure success in our lives. We just need to invest in a little focus and attention training.
We are talking about developing our ability to focus the attention of our mind and thereby develop our ability to concentrate on any given subject. Concentration develops contemplation and this is how we achieve a deep understanding of the subject we are focused on. This can get scary only when we choose a subject like self realization where we consciously seek to clean up our core belief system because it is a liability to us. But normally in the physical world we just need to develop more efficient thinking habits that allow us to perform more affectively and thereby achieve higher levels of success in the normal conduct of our lives.
Bringing the energy of our normally unruly mind's attention to one single point of focus is the goal and learning how to do this is the challenge. The absolute best way to develop mental self discipline in through the use of the main tool of the mental world, meditation. Stop! Do not let your mind go off on a journey to the Himalayas and put on ochre robes, get real. That is so nineteenth century! These days meditation is recognized as the top of the line multipurpose tool for working with anything that has to do with Human experience. The trick here is to find the right one for the right job because there are many different meditation techniques out there. Generally speaking though, they all work toward the development of mental discipline. I personally use the Vipassana technique for this because mental self discipline is one of its main goals.
It is easier to focus our attention on activities that we are interested in and that we enjoy and we are easily distracted when doing things that we are not so interested in. And that distraction can easily mean the difference between success and failure. Also, who will have a better chance of higher levels of success, the person with a superficial understanding of a subject or the person who achieves a deeper insight through contemplation?
There is no question as to whether mental self discipline and success are linked together in a symbiotic relationship. The project manager who can grasp and focus on the relevant elements and determine priorities, and the homemaker who manages multiple tasks and activities in the daily events of family life are highly successful or barely competent depending on the level of self discipline they have developed which often translates into organized thinking skills. Self discipline is a key element of personal power, which can make the difference between being a victim of life and being the master of our lives.
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